Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Book Review: "Winged Obsession"

Probably my favorite section of Peter Laufer's 2009 book The Dangerous World of Butterflies was on the super-smuggler Hisoyashi Kojima and Ed Newcomer, the undercover agent who finally put him in prison. Now Jessica Speart has added to the Kojima story with her own full-length book, Winged Obsession: The Pursuit of the World's Most Notorious Butterfly Smuggler (forthcoming from William Morrow).

Speart goes into much greater depth on Newcomer's pursuit of Kojima, as well as on some of the other undercover operations Newcomer was handling at the same time (including a fascinating investigation into the brutal killing of hawks by racing enthusiasts, which would make a book well worth reading in its own right). Supplementing her narrative with some of the evidence collected against Kojima, including saved Skype conversations, emails and other recordings, Speart's account really makes clear just how obsessed Kojima grew with Newcomer over the course of the operation, and how Newcomer was able to put that obsession to good use.

Bringing the story even more up to date, Speart traveled to Kyoto and met Kojima, hearing his "side of the story" and finding herself sized up as a possible accomplice in the continued smuggling of protected butterflies.

In the grand tradition of The Orchid Thief, this journalistic account reads like a good thriller. Speart's done her research on butterfly collecting and smuggling as well as wildlife protection efforts, and it shows. Highly recommended.

1 comment:

Shhazam said...

Enjoyed her interview on NPR this April, 17, 2011 and now I am buying this book.